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Jun 28, 2007

Tourism industry prepares for hurricanes

Story PictureWe all may be aware that it’s hurricane season, but that knowledge doesn’t do much good if we don’t take action. One group that knows the value of hurricane preparedness more than most is the tourism industry. Today they gathered to hear some familiar–and critical–advice: plan ahead.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
It’s been six years since Belize was last hit by a hurricane, but the experiences of major storms such as Iris and Keith demonstrated what can happen to homes and businesses not prepared for any natural disaster.

Lt. Col. George Lovell [Ret’d], Ag. Coordinator, NEMO
“If you find out that our citizenship does not respond to the advisories, does not know what to do in the event of a hurricane, just using hurricane as a hazard, you will find out that that is where we will be the weakest as nation and even our sound plans that we have may not be effective.”

One such document is the National Emergency Management Plan. Long available to the public, but hardly ever studied, it not only provides information on hurricanes, but gives a list of hazards and ways to mitigate their damage.

For the fourth time, more than sixty members of the Belize Tourism Industry Association met to be better prepared. The participants are from hotels, restaurants, tour and insurance companies, the banks, and the Belize Tourism Board

Lt. Col George Lovell
“Workshops like these help in order to educate people and, yes, I note that there are a number of them who do not really have a plan. When you look at the percentage of those who claim that they have, it is only fifty percent which means we have some work to do.”

Those attending are making sure that their own measures to address natural disasters conform to the national plan.

Andrew Godoy, Executive Director, BTIA
“The participants get to analyse a plan and actually look at simulation exercises. … You find that most properties develop plans and it’s not in line with the national plan. Even for us what we are realising is that a lot of the information that we felt our plan was a good plan, we do it in isolation of the national plan.”

The workshop is being held in coordination with the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism. It is being facilitated by CAST’s Director Deirdre Shurland.

Deirdre Shurland, Director, CAST
“It is so important, I think at this stage to get each of the businesses that make up the tourism industry at the destinations to understand what the national plan requires and how they as citizens, how they as businesspeople should prepare themselves in order to continue operations.”

Unlike other businesses, tourist operations must provide for the needs of guests as well as employees and property. This can mean measures for evacuation, accommodation, medical care, and notification of families and embassies.

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